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I2g                                                                                                     B- POLEVOI
Had he the right to accept such a sacrifice? They were
not bound to each other yet, they were engaged, but not
yet husband and wife. He loved her, loved her dearly,
and therefore decided that he had no such right, that he
himself must sever their ties, at once, at one stroke, in
order to save her not only from a burdensome future, but
also from the torments of a present dilemma.
But then a letter arrived bearing the Kamyshin post-
mark, and it upset all these decisions. It was a letter from
Olya, and every line breathed anxiety. As if labouring
under a foreboding of disaster, she wrote that she would
remain with him for ever, no matter what happened to
him, that she lived only for him, that her thoughts were
with him every spare moment, and that these thoughts
helped her to bear the hardships of war-time, the sleep-
less nights at the saw-mill, the digging of trenches and
tank ditches on free days and nights, and, why conceal it,
her existence of semi-starvation. "That last small photo-
graph you had taken, sitting on a tree stump with a dog
and smiling, is always with me. I have put it in Mother's
locket and wear it round my neck. When I feel depressed
I open the locket and look at you. .. I believe that as long
as we love each other, we need fear nothing." She also
wrote that his mother had been very anxious about him
lately, and again urged him to write to the old lady
more often, but not to disquiet her with bad news.
These letters from home had always been a happy
event, an event that had warmed his heart amidst the
hardships of life at the front; but now, for the first time,
they gave him no joy. They made his heart heavier and
he committed the blunder that caused him so much
torment later: he dared not write home to say that his
feet had been amputated.
The only one he wrote to in detail about his misfortune
and about his joyless reflections, was the girl at the
meteorological station. They were scarcely acquainted,
and it was therefore easier to tell her about these things.
Not knowing her name, he addressed his letters to her as
follows: "F.P.O. so-and-so, Meteorological Station, for
the 'meteorological sergeant'." He knew what value was
attached to letters at the front and hoped that his would
reach even this strange address sooner or later. Even if